Kidney ready for tough challenge
June 1, 2008
Pool C rivals - Australia coach Robbie Deans and Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll pictured at today's Rugby World Cup Pool Draw © Getty Images
Declan Kidney fears Ireland will be targeted by lesser nations after being drawn alongside Australia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The Wallabies, Italy and qualifiers from Europe and the Americas - possibly Georgia and Canada - will form Ireland's group rivals in a reasonably kind Pool C. After failing to emerge from the 'group of death' last autumn, the make-up of their pool for New Zealand in three years time comes as something of a relief.
But Kidney refuses to dismiss the minnows and is determined to build a squad that will survive what he views as a gruelling schedule. "If it's Georgia or Romania they will be coming at us hard," he said. "Being ranked second will make us the target team for the other sides in the pool. They'll be looking to have a go at us.
"This draw is a fantastic way to start the competition but the World Cup is so far away that it's impossible to say who will be around or involved. We have played against Australia in World Cups before and Italy being in the group will add spice to our Six Nations matches over the coming three years.
"But tournament rugby is so different to competitions like the Six Nations because there are a lot of games in a short period of time. We need to build a squad in the Six Nations. Every match is physical at the World Cup so we need to be prepared for that."
Ireland and Australia have met on four occasions at the World Cup, most memorably a dramatic 19-18 quarter-final victory for the Wallabies at Lansdowne Road in 1991. One point was all that separated the teams in 2003 with Ireland slipping to a 17-16 defeat and Australia have emerged winners on all four occasions.
Brian O'Driscoll was in action that night at the Telstra Dome and the Ireland skipper hopes he will be able to participate in a fourth World Cup. "I want to be involved but experience teaches you not to look too far ahead," said the 29-year-old. "The game can be fickle, especially when the body gets older. Hopefully in three years time I'll still have the wherewithal to play at this level.
"It would be fantastic to play in a fourth World Cup but it's a long, long way away. We were beaten by Australia on tour this summer and they were good. They were good in parts this autumn, but that's not the Australia team we'll see in three years time.
"It's hard to play against any side in a World Cup - I learnt that last year. No team makes up the numbers, they come to win."
A quarter-final finish is Ireland's best performance at the World Cup and O'Driscoll is determined to improve that record.
"Sure there's a sense we haven't fulfilled ourselves. We've got out of the pool stages once in the last three World Cups," he said. "That's not something to shout from the rafters. We want to do better than that but we won't be shouting our ambitions from the rafters."
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